Sailing: New Zealand win inaugural S’pore Grand Prix

The SailGP team from New Zealand celebrating their win at the inaugural Singapore Sail Grand Prix at East Coast Park on Jan 15, 2023. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
The SailGP team from New Zealand during a practice session at East Coast Park on Jan 12, 2023. New Zealand won the inaugural Singapore Sail Grand Prix. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE – After a day of light winds that saw delays and a cancellation, racing finally picked up on an eventful Sunday at the inaugural Singapore Sail Grand Prix as New Zealand were crowned champions.

The odds were against New Zealand, who had gone into the regatta four points down after they were penalised for making contact with United States in a practice race on Thursday.

With intermittent rain hitting East Coast Park and the winds picking up on Sunday, their crew produced a dominant performance ahead of Denmark and Australia in the three-boat winner-takes-all final that saw them clock an average speed of 53kmh and a top speed of 77.1kmh to claim the team’s third win of the season. The top speed on Saturday was 45.9kmh recorded by Canada.

The Kiwis’ victory in Singapore keeps the pressure on leaders Australia in the SailGP championship leaderboard with two more events in Sydney and Christchurch before the competition’s grand final in San Francisco in May.

Two-time champions Australia lead with 68 points, with New Zealand nine points behind. Britain are third on 54 points.

New Zealand driver Peter Burling said: “To be able to put it together today is an amazing feeling and everyone did an amazing job. We’ve been sailing consistently all week – it’s a shame to have those penalty points for the season but it’s good to come out and show what we’ve got and how strong this team actually is.”

(From left) The SailGP teams from Denmark, New Zealand and Australia in action on the second day of the inaugural Singapore Sail Grand Prix at East Coast Park on Jan 15, 2023. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The Singapore Sail Grand Prix is the hydrofoiling series’ first event in South-east Asia – over 5,000 fans caught the action over the weekend and tickets were sold out.

The US$1 million (S$1.34 million) competition is currently in its third season and features the world’s best catamaran sailors. It will return here for the next two seasons as part of a three-year deal.

The second day of racing saw teams return to their usual six-person configuration after they dropped to four-person crews on Saturday owing to light wind conditions.

Overnight leaders Australia (18 points) got off to a disastrous start in the third race and were relegated to the back of the nine-team fleet after being penalised for an early start.

Switzerland, who joined the series this season, went on to claim their first-ever SailGP race win.

The fourth race was won by the Danish team, who topped the standings to qualify for their first final since the Copenhagen SailGP in August 2022, with Australia and New Zealand joining them in the three-team finale.

Denmark driver Nicolai Sehested said: “It was a good performance from our team, we were sailing well. We always knew we had the level to get into the final, we just needed a good day.

“Obviously, we’d like a win but we’ll take it next time so we’re happy with second.

“Singapore is amazing, good conditions, great support here, it’s been fun racing here and we look forward to be back soon.”

While Australia driver Tom Slingsby was disappointed not to win, he was pleased with the outcome given the challenging conditions.

The 38-year-old said: “We didn’t sail our best today because I want to win every race I do but in a couple of hours, I will look at the results and say third place was pretty good in this event.

“Light winds aren’t our strong point and we got through with it so we’re happy...

“It was nice here. It was tricky conditions – we had rain clouds coming through, thunderstorms, light winds, strong winds, we’ve kind of had everything out there.

“It was nice – it’s the first South-east Asian event we’ve done and I’m sure we’ll be back for many more years to come.”

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